Local Politics

House OKs extending school calendar

Posted May 12, 2009 4:21 p.m. EDT
Updated May 12, 2009 7:17 p.m. EDT

— The House on Tuesday approved legislation that would let North Carolina school districts add makeup days to the end of the school year.

House Bill 636 would allow districts to tack on up to three days of instruction to make up for days lost because of bad weather or emergency conditions. If more makeup days were needed, districts could use up to two teacher workdays, according to the bill.

A 2004 law requires most public schools to begin no earlier than Aug. 25 and end by June 10.

"Local schools obviously know what's best for students, not one size fits the entire state," said Rep. Marvin Lucas, D-Cumberland, a co-sponsor of the bill. "Before, they had to use Saturdays (as makeup days), and what they were finding is that 50 percent of the students were attending school on a Saturday, which is, in essence, a wasted school day."

Wake County schools were forced to schedule two makeup days during spring break this year because of late-winter storms. A large number of students didn't attend during those days.

"A lot of people already made plans to go places, and that was messing up their whole vacation," said Gabrielle Hernon, a freshman at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh.

Still, Hernon and her friend, Javonus Freeman, said extending the school year for makeup days would be worse than missing part of spring break.

"I'm ready for school to be over," Freeman said. "Everyone is ready to get out of school."

Lucas' bill is the second bill affecting school calendars that is making its way through the General Assembly.

On Monday, a House committee approved House Bill 593, which would allow public schools to open as early as Aug. 8 instead of Aug. 25.

Education groups said earlier start dates would let students take exams before the Christmas vacation and could help with scheduling makeup days.

The tourism industry has been fighting the change because it would cut into traditional summer vacations.